Facing Disability With Resources From Aristotle and Nietzsche
Stocker, Susan S.
Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 2002; 5(2): 137-146
Suddenly unable to walk, I found resources for facing disability in the works of Aristotle and Nietzsche, even though their respective ethical schemes are incommensurable. Implementing Amelie Rorty's notion of crop rotation, I show how each scheme offers the patient something quite indispensable, having to do with how each has its own judgmentally-motivated psychological underpinnings. Aristotle's notion of empathy, wherein the moral move occurs whenever we take up someone else's good as our own, is empowering, especially to those who face an imperiled embodiment. However, Nietzsche teaches us that pity is demeaning both to the pitier and to the pitied, because it falsely assumes that life should be easy so that we are filled with ressentiment when it isn't. Those facing disability need empathy, not pity. The richness of this distinction is vividly conveyed in narratives that show how empathy and pity play out in lived situations, thereby avoiding the dissociation that too often characterizes ethical theorizing. By honoring narrative accounts of how these relational moves are either snagged or successfully made, the attuned moral agency of medical practitioners can be fostered.
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